Paper in Child: Care, Health and Development
  • Livesey, D., Lum Mow, M., Toshack, T. and Zheng, Y. (2011). The relationship between motor performance and peer relations in 9- to 12-year-old children. Child: Care, Health and Development, 37(4), 581-588.

    Background: Poor motor skills have been associated with peer relationship difficulties, with lower peer preference and greater likelihood of suffering from withdrawal and low self-worth. Most research into these relationships has focused upon children with motor problems and on activities involving physical skills (play/sport). The current study examined the link between motor performance and peer relations in 9- to 12-year-old children in both physical and non-physical (schoolwork) settings using a community sample.

    Methods: Participants were 192 school children whose motor performance was tested using the Movement Assessment Battery for Children. Peer acceptance was assessed using the Peer Rating Scale and teachers completed the Peer Exclusion subscale of the Child Behaviour Scale to indicate each child's peer status. Children were also asked to indicate their level of physical activity and their perceived freedom in leisure using self-report questionnaires.

    Results: Children with poor motor performance had lower levels of physical activity, and freedom in leisure and were less preferred by their peers in both play and classroom settings. These effects were stronger for boys than for girls. Teacher indicated that children with poorer motor skills experienced higher levels of peer rejection in the classroom setting. When motor performance was separated into fine- and gross-motor performance it was found that only the latter was significantly correlated with peer acceptance in the play context but that fine-motor skills contributed significantly to variance in teacher ratings of peer exclusion in the classroom setting.

    Conclusions: The results support and extend earlier findings that children with poor motor performance are less accepted by their peers in play settings and provide some support for this extending to settings involving low levels of physical activity (classroom settings). The results similarly support previous findings that motor performance is associated with perceived freedom in leisure and with the likelihood of participating in active pursuits.